November 23, 2011

Coast to coast

More news about: Linfield | Wesley

Mickey Inns, Shane McSweeny
Mickey Inns, left, and Shane McSweeny (with Steve Koudossou) lead their teams into Saturday's second-round game.
Inns by Rusty Rae, McSweeny and Koudossou Wesley athletics photo

By Andrew Lovell
D3sports.com

Safety Drew Fisher and cornerback Christian Hanna give the Linfield secondary senior experience.
Linfield athletics photo

One team has reached the NCAA semifinals four times since 2005, while the other is just seven seasons removed a Stagg Bowl title, the last by a team other than Mount Union or UW-Whitewater.

One calls Dover, Del., its home; the other, McMinnville, Ore. One is ranked No. 7 in the country, the other is ranked No. 5. But when this Saturday rolls around, and Linfield and Wesley line up for their second-round matchup, it will mark a first for both storied programs.

In a rare Division III battle of the coasts, Linfield will come east for the first time since the 2004 Stagg Bowl to face Wesley in arguably the best matchup so far of this year's playoffs.

This Linfield-Wesley matchup isn't your normal second-round game. In fact, it's one Linfield coach Joe Smith said deserves a better buildup.

"It's great for Division III [but] it's ridiculous that it's in round two," Smith said. "I think that's an absolute sham. This should be a semifinal-type matchup, or at least a quarterfinal matchup, and I think that's a disservice to the two programs, but there are seven or eight teams [that can win the Stagg Bowl] and these are two of them."

How do two of the top seven teams in the country end up playing in the second round of the playoffs? It's simply a byproduct of the NCAA's layout of this year's bracket. The Mary Hardin-Baylor quadrant, which features Linfield and Wesley, is loaded. All eight of the teams were ranked 31st or higher in the final D3football.com poll of the regular season. Like Smith, Wesley coach Mike Drass noticed that immediately upon viewing the bracket.

"I thought the eight teams in our region were extremely talented," Drass said. "I don't know what other people think, but in my humble opinion ... it seems like there's a heck of a lot of talent on the teams in our [bracket]."

While it was confirmed that Mary Hardin-Baylor was the No. 1 seed, seeds for the other seven teams weren't revealed. So Smith and Drass didn't find out until Sunday morning which team was hosting. With nearly 3,000 miles separating the two schools, there was a little more at stake than usual. Smith was discouraged to find out his squad drew the short end not only travelwise, but timewise as well. The noon ET kickoff will feel like 9 a.m. for coaches and players used to living out west.

"It's a huge challenge, and I think that's something that I'd like to see changed in Division III for teams that are facing a three-hour time difference earlier," Smith said. "It's really only the west teams. ... It's ridiculous. You're getting a wake-up call at, what seems to you, at 4:30 in the morning. That's just not very conducive."

Smith said the Wildcats have played four games in central time zone areas, such as Wisconsin and Minnesota, over the last eight years. To his knowledge, a 2004 matchup with Rowan stands as Linfield's only matchup with an East Coast team.

Drass, who has been forced to travel long distances in past postseasons, understands what Linfield is up against, but admitted he was relieved his team was selected to host.

"Without question [we're happy to be hosting]," Drass said. "We've been in this situation before. We had to fly to Texas around Thanksgiving and you're trying to do everything you can to take care of your families, take care of kids. You have to try and do your best to help your families, but you've got to travel your team."

The Wildcats will fly out to Delaware on Thanksgiving itself, Smith said. Ultimately, the travel and time zone difference only underscore the true value of this game -- a potentially classic matchup between two of Division III's best teams over the last decade.

The numbers speak for themselves -- Linfield is 93-15 since 2002, including 14-5 in the playoffs. That includes a Stagg Bowl title and another NCAA semifinals appearance in 2009. Wesley is 99-21 since 2002, including a 16-6 mark in the playoffs. That includes four NCAA semifinals appearances since 2005.

"I think it's an exciting game," Drass said. "... Here are two teams, when people talk about some of the better football teams in Division III, our names have both come up. It's a great opportunity for a West Coast school to play an East Coast school, and vice versa. That's exciting."

Wesley and Linfield both had to grind out wins in the first round, a theme that will likely continue for the winner of Saturday's contest.

Wesley held off a banged-up Hobart squad 35-28, but made the game closer than it should have by turning the ball over four times inside its own 20-yard line. The Wolverines also allowed a blocked punt, which Hobart returned for a third-quarter touchdown to keep things close.

Quarterback Shane McSweeny was sharp, completing 18 of 27 passes for 336 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing for 61 yards.

"Shane, obviously, is our leader," Drass said. "When he's having success, we're having success."

Mike Asiedu
Mike Asiedu is second on the Wolverines in tackles and has a 90-yard interception return to his credit.
Wesley athletics photo

Askia Jahad, a bigger back with above-average speed, has stepped in nicely for Brandon Wright, who was lost for the season with a torn ACL in the Wolverines' seventh game of the season. Tight end Sean McAndrew (30 receptions, seven touchdowns) is McSweeny's security blanket in the passing game. Wide receivers Matt Barile and Steve Koudossu are both big-play threats, while Jeremiah Howe is a reliable slot/possession-type of receiver.

Defensively, the Wolverines boast a fast, athletic unit, led by defensive end Chris Mayes. Defensive tackle Paul Gilstrop and linebackers Jeff Morgan, Mike Asiedu and Sosthene Kapepula are also key factors on one of the country's best defenses.

Linfield quarterback Mickey Inns (2,448 yards, 28 touchdowns, six interceptions) has been one of the country's most consistent signal callers this season. Inns threw for 152 yards and tossed touchdowns to three receivers in the Wildcats' 30-27 win over Cal Lutheran in the first round. Running back Josh Hill also had a strong day, rushing for 146 yards and 27 carries. Drass said Hill has 2,000-yard potential and will be a key focal point for Wesley's defense.

Linfield sits at 10-0 and is coming off a third straight Northwest Conference title. Wesley, an independent, enters the game with a 10-1 mark, its only loss coming in the second week to Kean. Drass said that loss served as a wake-up call. So much so, in fact, that Drass said the Wolverines tallied their "turning point" victory just three weeks later against Charleston Southern, a Division I FCS team with 60 scholarship players.

"After we lost to Kean, I thought, as a team, we had one of two directions to go," Drass said. "We went through that same situation in 2009 when we lost to Delaware Valley the first game of the season. We know the drill, you can't lose, especially if you're independent like we are, or in the Atlantic Central, which was only a four-team league back then."

The winner of Saturday's matchup will likely earn a quarterfinal matchup with Mary Hardin-Baylor, which faces McMurry in the second round. But for now, both coaches are focused on their new -- and quite formidable -- opponents.

"We're pretty excited about it," Smith said. "We've never been to Delaware, I've never been there. It's fun to go somewhere new and those guys are a good coaching staff. We're pretty excited about it, it'll be fun."

comments powered by Disqus
Sep. 19: All times Eastern
Final
Framingham State 29, at Fitchburg State 26
Box Score Recap
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
Final
RPI 41, at Castleton State 13
Box Score Recap
Final - 2OT
at Massachusetts Maritime 26, Maine Maritime 20
Box Score Recap
Final
at Rochester 30, Gallaudet 2
Box Score Recap Recap
Final - OT
at Husson 34, Alfred State 28
Box Score Photos
Final
at Randolph-Macon 34, Sewanee 20
Box Score
Final
at Johns Hopkins 33, Moravian 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Utica 20, Frostburg State 12
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Alfred 29, at Buffalo State 21
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Catholic 31, Newport News Apprentice 24
Box Score
Final
at Nichols 10, Becker 3
Box Score
Final
Wesleyan 22, at Middlebury 14
Box Score
Final
Bridgewater State 51, at Worcester State 27
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Tufts 24, Hamilton 17
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Amherst 14, Bates 6
Box Score Photos
Final
at Trinity (Conn.) 32, Colby 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at William Paterson 36, Salve Regina 32
Box Score Recap
Final
at Stevenson 20, Lebanon Valley 14
Box Score
Final
Allegheny 24, at Hiram 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Merchant Marine 34, SUNY-Maritime 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Vincent 23, Case Western Reserve 20
Box Score
Final
Thomas More 66, at Thiel 27
Box Score Recap
Final
Ursinus 31, at Franklin and Marshall 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Endicott 41, at Kean 28
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 56, Coast Guard 0
Box Score
Final
Maryville (Tenn.) 40, at Averett 17
Box Score
Final
at Widener 41, Albright 23
Final
Hobart 43, at Curry 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Greensboro 37, LaGrange 35
Box Score
Final
at Dickinson 29, Susquehanna 28
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wesley 37, Rowan 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Lawrence 31, Morrisville State 14
Box Score
Final
at Misericordia 35, FDU-Florham 0
Final
at Gettysburg 31, Juniata 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Montclair State 27, Lincoln (Pa.) 14
Box Score Recap
Final
Wabash 31, at Denison 12
Box Score Photos
Final - OT
Bethany 21, at Westminster (Pa.) 14
Final
at Springfield 47, Mount Ida 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Ithaca 42, Hartwick 7
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Norwich 10, WPI 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Iowa Wesleyan 13, at Minnesota-Morris 7
Box Score
Final
at Methodist 41, Huntingdon 34
Box Score
Final
Ohio Northern 37, at Baldwin Wallace 35
Box Score
Final
at Capital 34, Wilmington 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Franklin 62, at Anderson 14
Box Score
Final
at Washington and Jefferson 48, Carnegie Mellon 30
Box Score Recap
Final
at John Carroll 43, Heidelberg 16
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Lycoming 28, King's 13
Box Score Recap
Final - 2OT
at Waynesburg 44, Geneva 38
Final
Mount Union 62, at Muskingum 6
Box Score
Final
Mount St. Joseph 24, at Defiance 21
Box Score
Final
at Manchester 55, Earlham 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Williams 36, Bowdoin 0
Box Score Photos Photos
Final
Muhlenberg 59, at McDaniel 10
Box Score
Final
UW-Whitewater 48, at TCNJ 0
Final
at Otterbein 20, Marietta 0
Box Score
Final
Hope 25, at Lakeland 22
Box Score
Final
Olivet 49, at Aurora 20
Box Score Recap
Final
Albion 57, at Concordia (Wis.) 20
Box Score
Final
at Washington U. 24, North Park 19
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wisconsin Lutheran 32, Kalamazoo 20
Box Score
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 17, UW-Eau Claire 0
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Concordia-Moorhead 23, at St. John's 14
Box Score Photos
Final
at Bethel 40, St. Olaf 0
Box Score
Final
Augsburg 42, at Carleton 14
Box Score
Final
at Gustavus Adolphus 48, Hamline 19
Box Score
Final
Stetson 37, at Birmingham-Southern 19
Box Score
Final
Trinity (Texas) 14, at Sul Ross State 6
Box Score
Final
at Austin 21, Occidental 12
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Howard Payne 38, Southwestern Assemblies 25
Final
at Central 65, Maranatha Baptist 12
Box Score Recap
Final
at Luther 49, Grinnell 21
Box Score
Final
UW-Stevens Point 37, at Coe 21
Box Score
Final
at Greenville 30, Eureka 27
Box Score
Final
Westminster (Mo.) 27, at MacMurray 21
Box Score
Final
Texas Lutheran 38, at Louisiana College 32
Box Score Recap
Final
at Simpson 13, Illinois Wesleyan 3
Box Score
Final
Trine 27, at Rockford 7
Box Score Recap
Final - 2OT
Rose-Hulman 48, at Hanover 42
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Western Connecticut 45, Plymouth State 7
Box Score
Final
Hardin-Simmons 37, at Wayland Baptist 23
Box Score
Final
at Whittier 23, Lewis and Clark 10
Box Score
Final
Willamette 42, at Cal Lutheran 24
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Alma 24, at Concordia-Chicago 21
Box Score
Final
Carroll 28, at Lake Forest 7
Box Score
Final
Whitworth 50, at La Verne 48
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Westfield State 14, at Mass-Dartmouth 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Scholastica 48, Crown 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wittenberg 34, DePauw 17
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
St. John Fisher 36, at Brockport State 20
Box Score Recap
Final
Guilford 35, at Southern Virginia 27
@ Salem Stadium
Box Score Recap
Final
Wooster 63, at Oberlin 10
Box Score Recap
Final
at Shenandoah 45, Ferrum 20
Box Score Photos
Final
Centre 28, at Washington and Lee 23
Box Score
Final
at Ohio Wesleyan 35, Kenyon 25
Box Score
Final
at Delaware Valley 54, Wilkes 35
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-River Falls 43, at South Dakota Mines 28
Box Score
Final
at Augustana 34, Loras 17
Final
at Dubuque 16, Pacific 10
Box Score Recap
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 28, UW-Platteville 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Chicago 29, at Elmhurst 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Mary Hardin-Baylor 41, at UW-La Crosse 22
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at South Dakota State 41, UW-Oshkosh 3
Box Score
Final
Adrian 23, at Benedictine 6
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Wartburg 45, UW-Stout 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Northwestern (Minn.) 41, Martin Luther 27
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at East Texas Baptist 58, Southwestern 34
Box Score Recap
Final
Rhodes 42, at Pomona-Pitzer 21
Box Score Recap
Final
Linfield 36, at Redlands 3
Box Score Recap Photos
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
Final
St. John Fisher 36, at Brockport State 20
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wittenberg 34, DePauw 17
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Wartburg 45, UW-Stout 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at South Dakota State 41, UW-Oshkosh 3
Box Score
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 28, UW-Platteville 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Mary Hardin-Baylor 41, at UW-La Crosse 22
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Linfield 36, at Redlands 3
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
UW-Whitewater 48, at TCNJ 0
Final
Mount Union 62, at Muskingum 6
Box Score
Final
at John Carroll 43, Heidelberg 16
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Lycoming 28, King's 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wesley 37, Rowan 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 56, Coast Guard 0
Box Score
Final
Wabash 31, at Denison 12
Box Score Photos
Final
Thomas More 66, at Thiel 27
Box Score Recap
Final
at Ithaca 42, Hartwick 7
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Hobart 43, at Curry 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Johns Hopkins 33, Moravian 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Bethel 40, St. Olaf 0
Box Score
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 17, UW-Eau Claire 0
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Simpson 13, Illinois Wesleyan 3
Box Score

What We're Reading